Thursday, January 19, 2012

That old panderer Jean-Luc Godard gives us something to ponder in FILM SOCIALISM

Oh, am I using that headline word incorrectly?  I don't think so. According to my dictionary, a panderer, in addition to a sexual procurer, can be someone who "caters to or exploits the lower tastes and desires of others." While one does not necessarily think of intellectual pursuits as part of the "lower" tastes and desires, it seems to me -- and has for some time now -- that Jean-Luc Godard has become, intentionally or not, a fake who appeals to our pretensions more than anything else. And to my mind our pretensions qualify as lower tastes and desires.

Once upon a time, this filmmaker (shown at right) made a ground-breaking but not-very-good movie (Breathless) and then a much better one (Le Petit Soldat -- so important that France banned it for a long while). Otherwise, he's mostly been jerking us around. Misogynistic and misanthropic (the latter can be more easily forgiven than the former because it is at least all-inclusive), like Warhol in art, Godard makes us look at things differently. But not, unfortunately, in ways particularly edifying. So, having given up on JLG some years back, I decided to take a look at his latest, FILM SOCIALISM, with as open a mind as possible (what? You say it's sieve-like?) under these already greatly prejudiced circumstances.

Surprise! I wouldn't call the film a complete waste of time. Here are so many verbal and visual tricks and tics -- subtitles that sometimes do and sometimes don't translate what's being said in the dialog, plus a soundtrack that goes in and out at odd times, and subject headings that seem deliberately unhelpful -- that for a time you can't help but marvel at the filmmaker's use of distraction. Much of the film was also shot aboard a cruise ship, on which we're sailing with a bunch of tourists. Until we're not. (That ship, a friend of mine pointed out this morning, is the lately-infamous Concordia, the captain of which was recently immortalized by the NY Post, in one of its better recent headlines, as "Chicken of the Sea.")

I think you might call this movie another provocation by a provoker of long-standing, in which -- after all the nonsense (with maybe some sense buried deep within) -- the speech and the written word begin to somewhat coincide. Along the way we get a llama (above, left) and a mama (below, right).

We're treated to some Chopin and some Patti Smith (shown below), and on Blu-ray, the movie is often drop-dead gorgeous, with its scenes of the sea and sky pretty damned ravishing. (One character's blue eyes almost look like a special effect.)

We're whisked off briefly to the Palestine of 1926 and elsewhere, and moments from famous old movies are woven in throughout. And, oh, yes, there's politics, consumerism and immi/emigration, too -- though anything Godard might be saying about them that even approaches originality is lost on me. It's all style (I use the word loosely) but little real content here.

Then, near the end, we are shown a wise, old owl (no doubt a stand-in for our filmmaker), followed soon by the words NO COMMENT. Which is why TrustMovies decided to make his own comment via the above post.

Film Socialism, at a rather long 102 minutes, is available now -- for sale or rental -- on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Or you can watch it via Fandor, where it has just become available.  Bonne chance, mes amis!

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